When we are on a weight loss journey during the holidays, we often feel we are dealing with the “aftermath” of eating holiday meals and treats.
This may show up on the scale, or if you went into a holiday situation intending to be “good” and instead ate more than you wanted to, you may notice the aftermath showing up in your head in the form of lots of judgment, guilt, and shame.
However it shows up for you, I want to give you a simple reframe that will help you turn the aftermath into something useful.
“Toddler brain” on the loose
The biggest issue is that we are not considering anything beyond the present moment. Our “toddler brain” is in full control and is focused on what the food tastes like and what we might miss out on if we don’t consume it now.
We are focused on the fact that this food, this event, or this holiday only happens once a year. We can’t stop thinking about the fact that it tastes amazing, that we must take advantage of the moment, and that we need to get it in while we can.
Your “in the moment self” gets to do all the tasting and your “future self” has to live the consequences.
However, your adult brain is not locked in a closet, asleep, or running errands while your “toddler brain” is in control.
Your adult brain has become complicit in the whole scheme. Your adult brain has surrendered and is going along with the toddler because it feels easier.
Your “toddler brain” actually has no power to act. It can pester you with urges and distract you with the fear of missing out, but it is your adult brain that makes the decision to eat.
It’s like when your toddler is demanding to go to the park or McDonalds. They may be making the demand, but they rely on you to get them there. They can’t drive. They can’t navigate. They can’t walk that far. They don’t even know where it is or how long it takes, but they know they want to be there and that pestering you might get them there.
It is the same situation here. Your adult brain is the driver. That’s why it’s so critical to bring a pause to the moment of decision, to get conscious about what’s about to go down and what the aftermath of that decision will be.
Stop before you act
Resisting these urges doesn’t require anything fancy. It simply requires a willingness to stop before you act.
I know this feels impossible at the time, but I promise you – just like any skill you build – with practice, patience and persistence, it will become easier and easier.
We want to stop and think for a minute about what the aftermath will be. It can be helpful to ask yourself some of the following questions:
- How will I feel in my body in an hour if I eat this?
- How will I regard myself later for this decision?
- What will happen on the scale?
- What is the relationship of this decision to my goal?
- How does this affect my work on keeping my commitments to myself?
- What is the message I send to myself about what is important to me with this decision?
- What happens if I don’t eat it?
Eating anything is a choice, and by choosing to eat that thing, we are also choosing the consequences of that decision.
The aftermath of our eating decisions are not just in our body. The aftermath also shows up in our brains as drama.
Our brain wants to start telling us a story about our eating choices. It spins the narrative, tells us to lower our opinion of ourselves for the decisions we made, and causes damage to our relationship with ourselves.
The aftermath is made up of all sorts of destruction, craziness, repercussions and fallout. All of this drama is made up, unnecessary suffering.
Analyze your choices
Instead of internal drama and suffering, the aftermath can also just be the “after- math.”
Math is the antithesis of drama. It’s very straightforward. It’s just numbers, just facts, just data. There’s no emotion or interpretation in math. There’s just a problem and the solution, an equation and the answer to the equation.
So if we’re going to look at the “after-math” of an eating event, a holiday, or a series of decisions, it would look like an objective evaluation of what happened and why. Then you look forward to how to prevent that in future experiences.
We want to look at the story your brain is telling and pull out all the facts. Look at what you actually ate that you weren’t planning to. Consider why you passed on certain foods but ate more of others.
Think about the feelings you experienced at the time that influenced your decisions. Then, most importantly, ask yourself why.
“After-math” questions to consider:
- Why did I do what I did?
- Why did I eat what I ate?
- What was the result of this for me?
- How did I feel in my body?
- Did I like that result?
- What do I want to do differently next time I’m in a similar situation and am faced with this decision?
- How can I prepare differently next time?
- What’s important to remember about this?
- What do I want to let go of?
Rather than suffering in shame and regret, open up to the opportunity to learn and grow. Lean into the aftermath and use what you discover to help guide you to more success in the future.